Disney’s The Kid (2000)

12 Feb


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Adding the name “Disney” to the title of your movie must mean that families will automatically rush to the theater for some good, solid family entertainment from the Magic Kingdom. But you could call “Disney’s The Kid” just “The Kid” and it wouldn’t make much difference. Either way, this is a nice little movie that’s good for the family. It has its comic moments that entertain the kids, but it also has thankfully mature moments for the adults. It’s an involving, sweet, innocent family film—a feel-good story that Disney has been known for—and not just a kids’ movie, despite it having the “Disney” name in the very title.

The story is centered around hard-edged image consultant Russ Duritz (Bruce Willis). He focuses on his own image, while consulting the image of others—mostly celebrities and politicians. He gives brash-but-somewhat-helpful advice to his clients about omitting “self-pity” and also gives enough insults to everyone he meets, so that they all call him “jerk.” Not a day goes by without someone calling him “Jerk” either behind his back or right at his face. He alienates himself from family, he tyrannizes his personal assistant Janet (Lily Tomlin), and is even dismissive to his co-worker Amy (the always-delightful Emily Mortimer) who could be his girlfriend if he wasn’t such a “jerk.”

A few days before his 40th birthday, something strange happens. He’s visited by a little boy—a chubby lively kid named Rusty (Spencer Breslin). But this isn’t just any kid. As they both realize, Rusty is really Russ, at age eight. Somehow, Rusty has traveled forward in time to meet his 40-year-old self. Rusty is not so thrilled at his future self’s occupation—he doesn’t have a family, nor a dog, and has a job that just isn’t very exciting. “I grow up to be a loser,” the kid grimly states.

You can tell where this is going—Russ is going to realize through this kid what led him to become a loser and, with help from his past, is going to learn how he can become a better person. Now, I’m sure kids won’t appreciate this story very much, but they’ll still have the kid to identity with and the occasional slapstick humor that comes long (most of it is tame). The adults will get more out of it—this is their fantasy of revisiting their past. Yeah, the plot gets a little corny as it goes along, with story elements that seem added on for further drama, such as the subplots involving Russ’ on-again/off-again relationship with Amy and the heavy deal with Rusty being told that his mother is going to die from cancer. But most of the material does work, and leads to good lightly comic moments (most of which playing with Russ and Rusty’s relations with each other, or the question as to why the moon sometimes look orange), as well as effective dramatic scenes.

The acting helps give the movie its credibility. Bruce Willis is an effective leading man and shows dimensions far from being a deadpan, wisecracking beatnik (a role he’s usually known for). He shares terrific moments with Spencer Breslin, who is very appealing as Rusty the kid. Of the supporting cast, Emily Mortimer is always a delight to watch, Lily Tomlin is quite droll as Russ’ bored assistant, Chi McBride has a nice moment as a boxer/client who teaches bullied Rusty how to fight, and even the appealing Jean Smart, who has the least amount of screen time, has some wonderful moments as a Southern newscaster, who is one of Russ’ clients and gives him helpful advice about dealing with his own past.

“Disney’s The Kid” nearly ends with the message that learning to fight leads to a successful life. And I’m glad it didn’t go that route, because that seems to be the staple for movie messages in a lot of movies; particularly action films. It seems like it’s going to go that way, in a scene in which Rusty uses his new fighting skills on school bullies. But then we get to the satisfactory happy ending in which Russ and Rusty realize the true meaning and ambition of their lives, and Russ realizes that if he can’t change his own life by having his past self deal with his present self, then maybe the best is yet to come.

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